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WSLL @ Your Service January 2023

The Odd Law Examiner - by Nate Anderson

An occasional column on Wisconsin laws that may seem odd, antique, or simply fantastic.

Before you pull out your crystal ball, think ahead!

statutes books

Fortune telling is a Class C misdemeanor in Wisconsin, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500 or imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, or both.  (Wis. Stat. § 947.02 (4), Wis. Stat. § 939.51

The prohibition against fortune telling is embedded in Wisconsin's long-standing vagrancy statute, which adds some context: 

(1) A person, with the physical ability to work, who is without lawful means of support and does not seek employment; or
(3) A prostitute who loiters on the streets or in a place where intoxicating liquors are sold, or a person who, in public, solicits another to commit a crime against sexual morality; or
(4) A person known to be a professional gambler or known as a frequenter of gambling places or who derives part of his or her support from begging or as a fortune teller or similar impostor.

That is, in fact, the whole statute as it exists today. The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down section (2), loitering by someone "unable to account for his presence," as unconstitutionally vague back in 1971 (State v. Starks 51 Wis.2d 256, 186 N.W.2d 245). 

Fortune tellers, prostitutes, gamblers, beggars, and the merely indolent are the survivors of a crowded field of vagrants in older, and far wordier, versions of the statute.  In 1929, they were joined by "all persons wandering abroad and lodging in groceries, beerhouses, outhouses, market places, sheds or barns in the open air, all common drunkards; all lewd, wanton, lascivious persons in speech or behavior."  (Wis. Stat. § 348.351 ) 

Back in 1929, the law allowed sheriffs to put fortune tellers and their fellow vagrants to hard labor on the highways, and if they refused, they faced solitary confinement without "tobacco, newspaper, cards, or any other article of amusement." (Wis. Stat. § 348.354). 

In the midst of the Depression, though, jail started to look pretty good to some of Dodgeville's destitute unemployed. 

"You state that for the last six months or so there have been an average of from five to ten tramps who call at the county jail and ask for a night's lodging, supper, and breakfast," summarized the Wisconsin Attorney General. "…the sheriff has no authority to furnish meals to tramps as being poor persons."  Indeed, the AG finds vagrancy law "is aimed, primarily at least, at 'professional' vagrants" as a punishment, and not for the relief of these amateur tramps. (21 Op. Atty.Gen 517, 1932)

Vagrancy as something one does, as an illegal act or occupation, rather than simply a state of misfortune - and fortune telling is one such vagrancy "profession" - has legal antecedents long before Wisconsin statehood. Consider this 1597 English statute: "idle persons…pretending that they can tell destenys, fortunes or other such like fantastically imagynacions…shall be taken adjudged and deemed rouges, vagabonds, and sturdy beggers." (39 Elizabeth c. 4 1597, sec. 2, as quoted in Rubenstein, A Treatise on Contemporary Religious Jurisprudence, 1948).

So would one really face prosecution for telling fortunes in modern-day Wisconsin? 

We can't really predict.

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After Hours Subscriptions for 2023 - Abigail Case

It's time to renew your After Hours Service for 2023! The Wisconsin State Law Library offers After Hours access to the David T. Prosser Jr. State Law Library to any attorney licensed to practice in this state. After Hours Service includes the hours of 4:30 to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, including holidays.

Subscribers have access to the library's print and microform materials, public access computer stations and Wi-Fi. Subscribers may make photocopies, use the public scanner to email documents, and check out library materials after hours.

After Hours Service is offered on a calendar year subscription basis. Each attorney must maintain his or her own individual subscription. Current subscribers may renew (with an existing key fob) for $100 or sign up for new access for $108.

Renew or subscribe online, or complete an After Hours Service first-time subscription or renewal application form and mail it with a check or money order payable to Wisconsin State Law Library, to:

After Hours Service
Wisconsin State Law Library
P.O. Box 7881
Madison, WI 53707-7881

For more information, contact Abigail Case at 608-261-7553 or abigail.case@wicourts.gov.

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2022 in Review - Abby Hoffman

Legal books update information in a variety of ways. At our libraries, many books are updated regularly with supplements, pocket parts, and updated pages. We also get several new editions and brand new books every year on a wide variety of topics. To start off 2023, we are showcasing some of the books we added to our collection over the last 12 months. All of these were features in the New Books portion of our newsletter, written by Kari Zelinka, or in our new titles list.

Books in this display include:

new books

Every month we create a new book list of brand new or freshly updated books in our print and digital collections. Check recent new book lists for books in your subject area on our New titles page.

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New Books - Kari Zelinka

courtroom criminal evidence

New Edition! Courtroom Criminal Evidence, 7th edition, by Edward J. Imwinkelried and others, 2022
Call Number: KF 9660 .C68 2022

This updated edition of Courtroom Criminal Evidence is a two-volume set that can be perused in Lexis Digital or checked out from the library. It contains the latest information on polygraph evidence, chain-of-custody issues, evidentiary issues brought up by fax, email, caller ID as well as the latest amendments to the Federal Rules of Evidence. The text is written by attorneys in evidence law with many years of combined experience. If you have a question on evidence, start here for the most up to date information.

Chapters include:

  • Competency of witnesses
  • Authentication
  • Scientific Evidence
  • Credibility of witnesses
  • Character and habit evidence
  • The hearsay rule
  • Communications privileges for confidential relations
  • Search or seizure
banking law in the united states

New Edition! Banking Law in the United States, 5th edition, by Alfred M. Pollard and Raymond Natter
Call Number: KF 974.P64 B234 2022

The fifth edition of Banking Law in the United States is now in softbound book format, rather than available as a loose-leaf book. Both a primer in banking law and the place to look for emerging topics, this text is aimed at banking and finance lawyers, regulators and legislators.  Throughout the text are useful citations to statutory, regulatory, and judicial resources.

Chapters include:

  • History and concepts of banking regulation
  • Legislative and regulatory entities in a dual banking system
  • Enforcement powers of the regulators
  • Banking structure in the modern legal framework
  • National bank lending limits
  • Crimes and torts
  • Holding company nonbanking businesses
  • Regulation of retail banking
  • Privacy of financial records
  • Taxation of banks
  • Mergers, acquisitions, and anticompetitive behavior
  • Directions in banking law and regulation


New Titles RSS Feed See our latest New Titles list for a list of new books and other resources.

For assistance in accessing these or other resources, please contact our Reference Desk.

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Tech Tip - Heidi Yelk

Searching filed documents in the appellate courts

Most readers of this newsletter are familiar with the online docket system for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The default Case Search page offers field searching by party name, attorney name, appeal number and other particulars. However, wicourts.gov also provides a Filed Documents search option. This option is linked from the menu at the top of the page.

Filed documents button

On this page, users may search and retrieve a list of full text documents rather than searching for one filed case. Although not as powerful as searching Westlaw or Lexis, this free search is a handy way to find examples of briefs and petitions for review. It can also be used to retrieve a clean list of full text documents associated with a particular appeal number.

Not all documents are searchable or available full text. For a list of all documents filed in a case and all events, users must still check the docket sheet / case history for that particular case.

More information on using the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals online records can be found in the help section on wicourts.gov.

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Library News - Carol Hassler

Legal research classes

Our 2023 classes are now open! Registrations will be approved by the moderator. Once your registration is approved, you will get an email confirmation with connection information. Please reach out to Abigail Case with questions.

Basic knowledge: an introduction to the form and content of Wisconsin laws and legislative documents
Wednesday, January 18, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Location: Live webinar - Register for Basic Knowledge
A basic demonstration of what information is conveyed by Wisconsin Legislative bills and acts, with a discussion of the information available in the statutes that illuminate the law.

Special problems in researching Wisconsin legislation
Wednesday, February 15, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Location: Live webinar - Register for Special problems in researching Wisconsin legislation
A look at finding aids used to trace the origins and fate of certain unusual laws, such as non-statutory provisions, private and local laws and whole-numbered statute sections, plus help in finding the fate of repealed or renumbered statutes.

Introduction to legislative history
Wednesday, March 15, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Location: Live webinar - Register for Introduction to legislative history
I need the legislative history of a Wisconsin statute. Where do I start? What do I do? Participants will look at the primary resources used to research Wisconsin legislative history, learn about the online Wisconsin legislative drafting files, and learn some helpful tips and tricks along the way. This introductory class covers basic research strategies and sources.

Jury instructions explainer

Get an overview of the Wisconsin jury instructions project at the State Law Library, and some tips for updating your print sets. Read Legal Research 101: Wisconsin Jury Instructions in this week's State Bar of Wisconsin InsideTrack.

January State Holiday

All three libraries will be closed on Monday, January 16, 2023 for the Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday. While we are closed, please send questions to wsll.ref@wicourts.gov or leave a voicemail at 608-267-9696. We will respond to requests the following day.


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January Snapshot

Train plowing snow

Streets and highways are not the only modes of transportation in need of plowing after snowstorms. Railroads must keep the tracks clear to ensure safe passage. The Canadian Pacific recently deployed this plow to clear snowdrifts off the track from Madison to Portage, a stretch known as the M&P Subdivision. Blizzard and near-blizzard conditions hit the area December 22-24. To see the plow in action, check out this 2021 footage found on YouTube, Chasing a CP Plow Extra on the M&P Sub. This month's snapshot was sent to us by a newsletter reader.

We are accepting snapshots! Do you have a photo highlighting libraries, attractions, or points of historical interest? Send your photo to the editor at carol.hassler@wicourts.gov to be included in a future issue.

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